'How to Write a New Book for the Bible': Great family play at Round House Theatre - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

‘How to Write a New Book for the Bible’: Great family play at Round House Theatre

The talented Mitchell Hébert plays multiple roles in Round House Theatre’s production of “How to Write a New Book for the Bible.” In addition to playing the smaller role of Mary’s (MaryBeth Wise) doctor, Hébert’s primary part is the father of Bill (Ray Ficca) and the husband of Mary. (Danisha Crosby)

Playwright priest Bill Cain deftly recounts a moving family reunion in the largely autobiographical How to Write a New Book for the Bible. Do not miss the East Coast premiere of this stirring work at Round House Theatre Bethesda, Md., through May 5.

Screenwriter Bill (Ray Ficca in his Round House debut) moves in with his headstrong but ailing mother Mary (MaryBeth Wise). This is the second time Bill has taken on a caregiver role for a parent. He tended to his terminally ill father Pete (Mitchell Hébert, who in February and March of this theatre season directed the Round House production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross). The play toggles between memorable moments of Bill’s childhood – a funny argument with his older brother Paul (Danny Gavigan) involving Halloween pumpkins – and adulthood. The play also alternates between Bill speaking to the audience and speaking to fellow cast members.

Early in the play, Bill muses about his mother’s stubbornness. “I know she should be using a cane. I know she never will.”

The talented Mitchell Hébert plays multiple roles in Round House Theatre’s production of “How to Write a New Book for the Bible.” In addition to playing the smaller role of Mary’s (MaryBeth Wise) doctor, Hébert’s primary part is the father of Bill (Ray Ficca) and the husband of Mary. (Danisha Crosby)

MaryBeth Wise (Mary) and Ray Ficca (Bill) play a mother-son team in “How to Write a New Book for the Bible.” Round House Theatre is producing the Bill Cain play through May 5. (Danisha Crosby)

Mary feigns vitality in the presence of a physical therapist, but later quips, “I think it’s a shame to go through this pain and not get any better.” Wise is adept at roles involving complex family dynamics. She made a strong impression as a conflicted mother in Theater J’s September 2012 production of Body Awareness.

Cain astutely chronicles human dialogue. Rapid-fire, mostly feel-good humor eases the tension of family arguments and endears the cast to the audience during the first act. Anecdotes are familiar without feeling cliché – parents bicker about money, siblings fight over who is the favorite child. The emotional second act is more serious. Some audience members teared up. So take a tissue.

Round House’s staging of the play is especially clever when Bill, who does not like to lead with his religious vocation, finally mentions he is a priest. It is clear why he withholds that fact when the rest of the cast walks onto the stage one-by-one, impersonating strangers’ reactions.

The play’s religious references are general enough for secular audience members to follow. Bill offers incisive critiques of his faith. He describes the Bible as a story about families, and reflects on how Biblical stories help him navigate his family’s challenges.

Kudos to lighting designer Colin K. Bills. The lighting complements the action on the stage throughout the play. The lighting is at its best when Paul, a Vietnam veteran, visits the Vietnam Memorial.

How to Write a New Book for the Bible is the second of Cain’s plays to appear at Round House this season. Forum Theatre produced Cain’s psychological war crimes drama 9 Circles at Round House Theatre Silver Spring in February and March of this year.

Round House Theatre Bethesda, Md., presents “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” through May 5. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances start at 7:30 p.m. The play begins at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Saturday and Sunday matiness are at 3 p.m. Tickets cost between $10 and $61, with discounts available for senior citizens, patrons under the age of 30 and groups of 10 or more. For more information, call 240-644-1100.

 

 

 





About the author

Megan Kuhn

Megan Kuhn is a financial literacy advocate by day and a theater fan by night. One of her favorite possessions is the red jacket from “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” that she purchased at a costume sale at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Contact the author.
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